Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

Confusion often arises because psychiatrists and psychologists perform similar work in the area of psychotherapy and mental health diagnosis.  The training, however, follows different paths, although it  covers a similar number of years.  Psychiatrists first train as medical physicians and obtain an M.D. and complete a medical internship in a hospital. They receive specific training in the treatment of mental disorders, usually with an underlying medical component such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and clinical depression.

7599442_SClinical or Health Psychologists in Canada and the U.S. often use a broader range of psychotherapy/counseling and diagnostic techniques than do psychiatrists.  They typically work with more every day non-medical issues such individual, marital, family, parenting, career, communication, learning issues, although some  work with people with serious mental health issues.  Psychologists must obtain a doctoral (Ph.D, or Psy.D.) degree through academic study and research,  This typically requires about nine years in university, followed by an additional year of supervised intern experiences in a clinical setting such as a hospital or clinic.  Thereafter, they must pass written and oral exams to qualify as a Registered Psychologist with the College of Psychologists specific to each province or state in Canada or the U.S., which permits one to use the title Psychologist and to practice independently.

Do Psychologists prescribe drugs?

No.  As physicians, psychiatrists can prescribe drugs.  Psychologists emphasize verbal counseling and psychotherapy to develop insights, problem solving, and practical solutions as well as a variety of stress and pain management tools such as deep breathing, imagery, meditation, hypnosis, etc. They utilize psychological testing to assist in diagnosis. Psychologists often work collaboratively with family physicians and psychiatrists when medication needs are present.   However, in some states in the U.S., qualified psychologists can prescribe drugs.  Discussions are underway in Canada for psychologists to undertake similar study and qualification to prescribe medications as a possibility in the future.

Do psychologists provide a diagnosis concerning psychological, behavioural, and mental functioning?

Yes.  Psychologists are authorized by the Regulated Health Professions Act to diagnose and treat neuropsychological disorders and dysfunctions, as well as, psychotic, neurotic and personality disorders and dysfunctions and the maintenance and enhancement of physical, intellectual, emotional, social and interpersonal functioning.  Psychologists also
work with more every day problems such as stress management, marital, couples, family counseling, and work-related issues such as performance, professional development, career fit, and “burn-out.”

How can a Psychologist help?

Psychologists see people of all ages from children to older adults.  People are seen individually, or as a couple or as a family.  Psychologists also work with groups of people with similar problems.

A treatment session usually lasts about 50 minutes.  During the session, the psychologist works with the person to better understand their problems and find ways to resolve them.  Psychological testing may also be carried out to provide additional diagnostic information or to pull information together more quickly in a systematic manner.

Psychologists use their specialized knowledge of human behavior, emotion, personality, and mental processes to make diagnoses and their treatment skills to help people make healthy changes in their coping styles and emotional and behavioural patterns and relationships.

Are Psychologists covered by OHIP?

Psychologists are not covered by the provincial health insurance plan (OHIP) at present.  Only medical physicians and psychiatrists are covered by OHIP.  However, many companies provide employee benefits or individuals have private insurance that may provide reimbursement for part or all of psychological service fees.

How useful and reliable are psychological tests?

Only registered psychologists are trained and qualified to administer and interpret a wide range of personality and psychological tests with sufficient depth and understanding.  Many of these tests are not available to non-psychologists to use and make qualified interpretations.

Tests are helpful to bring into awareness underlying personality/behaviour patterns, skill sets, and talents.  Many people take their natural skills and aptitudes for granted or are unaware of their existence.  Testing can illuminate how strong they are compared to large normative groups of people.

Psychologists endeavor to use tests that are well researched and found to achieve accepted standards of validity (the test measures the personality/behavioral characteristics that it purports to measure) and reliability (the test consistently measures the identified personality/behavioral characteristic repeatedly over time).